Culture Fashion Mental Health Organizations

The Aesthetics of Social Impact: Penn Beauty

Most people see the world of cosmetics and efforts to achieve social change as spheres that do not touch. However, Penn students, Via Lim and Chloe Minjoo Kim, prove that the two can thrive when combined. Founders of the newly created club called Penn Beauty, the two freshman have launched their organization with full force, focusing on cosmetics, nail art, hair styling, hygiene, and more.

So far, Lim and Kim have held their first information session and general body meeting, garnering over 20 members, a large amount of interest, and a passionate group of board applicants. After discussion and planning, they’ve organized several proposals for the year that are on par with their mission statement of using beauty as a means to social impact.

To explore the nuances of the Pen Beauty’s mission, I spoke with President, Via Lim, and Vice President, Chloe Minjoo Kim on their project.

Vice President, Chloe Minjoo Kim, and President, Via Lim (credit: Via Lim)

How was Penn Beauty created?

Via Lim: It all started over the summer when I became determined to build something new within the Penn environment. As I deliberated concepts for clubs that could be created from scratch, I also reflected on my own passion for beauty. After attending beauty festivals in Korea, such as Makeup Coex, as well as feminist movement  festivals, such as Femmit, I decided I wanted to combine my love for cosmetic art and my identity as a feminist.

Penn Fashion Collective and The Walk are two Penn clubs that work with fashion, but I wanted to narrow down the focus from clothes to styling beauty. I also think the concepts of social change and justice were always relevant, even during the conception and early planning stages of the organization.

When did you two start collaborating?

Chloe Minjoo Kim: Via and I met for the first time during a different club meeting and we bonded over our  shared passion for beauty. After she ran the idea of a beauty club by me,  we decided to start this new student organization together.

The “about” in Penn Beauty’s Facebook Page reference social issues and specifically mentions gender inequality. In what way do social issues tie into Penn beauty’s mission statement?

Via Lim: Penn Beauty was founded on the groups of promoting individualism, confidence, and freedom of expression. Although we believe almost any social justice issue has some applicability, we are focusing right now on promoting gender equality through the power of makeup. Many individuals hold a bias associating the styling and cosmetic industries exclusively with females. Men also deserve the opportunity to express themselves through self-art.

Are there other social issues you want to touch upon this year?

Via Lim: Other issues we want to address include mental health, especially from the context of body image—we believe makeup has the ability to raise confidence and self esteem. We think its essential to highlight natural beauty, and plan on having an event called Bare the Bare, where all our members go make-up-free for a day to reinforce the idea that beauty comes from within. Makeup isn’t about hiding flaws, but instead accentuating your best features and expressing your personality. We want to highlight that makeup is just another form of expression.

Chloe Minjoo Kim: Also, racial discrimination is pertinent in the cosmetic industry. For example, many foundation lines do not carry a wide range of skin tones. Rihanna’s recently released line of makeup called Fenty Beauty, became extremely popular because it includes about fifty different shades. It offers a more comprehensive and accurate assortment of skin tones. This line’s success goes to show how much more potential cosmetic companies have when it comes to diversifying their products.

What are some other events besides Bare the Bare that you plan on holding this year?

Via Lim: We have a lot of ideas, but one of the biggest events we hope to host is an annual beauty festival. Before that, we’d like to hold smaller events like a nail polish bar, where people can get their nails done at a very cheap cost. For this event, we plan on creating a hashtag, #nailsforhe, as a way of promoting gender equality. Males are often afraid to break the stereotype that styling is considered “feminine”.

Chloe Minjoo Kim: We also plan on hosting makeover sessions for low income students in Philadelphia, for prom and other formal functions.

What do you want to focus on this year?

Mainly promoting the group and distributing pamphlets and brochures. Our group is very exciting because it is unique. While the majority of new student groups have similar concepts to previously existing clubs, Penn Beauty has managed to find a very special niche that applies to a lot of people.

The challenging part is that because Penn offers so many clubs, it is difficult to get the word out. We’d like more exposure and we’d like to work with other organizations.

Chloe Minjoo Kim: Incorporating aspects of social change with the styling industry is really effective and profitable. Many groups on campus focus exclusively on social change, but integrating that with preexisting interests like art and business can make for sustainable change.

How do you hope to affect the Penn community?

Chloe Minjoo Kim: Penn is comprised of university students, typically between the age of 18-23. Many people of this demographic are sensitive about their appearance, and easily influenced by others in our surroundings. We hope to promote the rights of minority groups on campus, share our love for art and beauty, and promote an environment where individuals can find their identity without being judged.

Is there any meaning behind the Penn Beauty Logo?

Via Lim: We actually put a lot of thought into the logo! It is a combination of the letters P and B, standing for Penn Beauty. We deliberated on the color scheme for a long time, but eventually decided on a classy black backdrop. We were originally going to use rose gold lettering, but decided to avoid pink, a color often associated with females. Instead, we opted for a more gender-neutral bronze, in order to emphasize our dedication to equality.

How do you think standards of beauty in American society have changed over time?

Chloe Minjoo Kim: Yes, definitely, especially in the past few year. The emergence of plus-sized models, a higher level of diversity in makeup brands, and quickly changing makeup trends are indicative of positive growth. For example, something as simple of thicker eyebrows were considered distasteful only several years ago. Now, many people thicken their brows to achieve a fuller look.

How do you define beauty?

Via Lim: In some ways, I think beauty is better left undefined, because every person has a different aesthetic. Beauty shouldn’t be standardized or structured, but instead left to the individual to explore, express, and appreciate.

Chloe Minjoo Kim: I agree. To me, beauty is what makes a person happy. Unfortunately, there are many idealistic western standards of beauty that affect individual perceptions on what people think should be considered beautiful. Especially with the rise of social media and perfectionist image projection, education plays a key role in teaching individuals that media isn’t what should define taste.

Give me three phrases. What will Penn Beauty achieve this year?

Chloe Minjoo Kim: Exposure through promotion. Advocacy and inclusiveness. And, of course, beauty.